Mapping 15 Manhattan Buildings Originally Built for Artists | Armonk Real Estate

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To do their work, artists need light and space—two things that can be hard to come by in Manhattan. In the early twentieth century, artists and their backers put up a number of buildings meant to meet those needs, with double-height studios, allowing for ample light, and low rents. Some of those buildings took advantage of the relatively new idea of co-op apartments and had artists buy shares in order to fund the buildings’ construction and maintenance. Artists’ cooperatives had occasional downsides—one resident of 130 West 57th Street filed a disorderly conduct complaint against a downstairs neighbor in 1921 over the “absolute riot” of ragtime music coming from her apartment. (The noisy neighbor in question decided to flee to Italy in search of “personal liberty” even once she was found not guilty.) But they were also home to the production of much notable work. We’ve rounded up 15 notable artists’ buildings for the map below. Most are still standing, though the prices for their apartments are no longer so artist-friendly.

Tenth Street Studio Building
51 West 10th Street, New York, NY 10011
Starchitect Richard Meier, before he achieved starchitect-dom, created the West Village’s Westbeth housing complex, meant for early-career artists who could hold onto their inexpensive rentals for about five years while growing their careers. The complex is now a landmark, and its residents have ended up having similar staying power. In fact, local politicians recently accused the complex of “stockpiling” apartments rather than allowing those on the waiting list to move in.
55 Bethune St, New York, NY 10014
Tenth Street Studio Building
Many of the buildings on this list date to the first decade of the twentieth century, but those structures were preceded by the Tenth Street Studio Building, which dates to 1857. Artists including Winslow Homer and Frederic Church had studio spaces there, and the building included a central gallery. (Some of the units were just studio spaces; others had bedrooms as well.) The building was demolished in 1956, and non-artist-oriented apartments now stand on the spot. (Photo courtesy the Museum of the City of New York.)
51 West 10th Street, New York, NY 10011
Gainsborough Studios
To address their needs for light and space, a group of painters and sculptors formed the Gainsborough Corporation in the early 1900s to build a building full of cooperative studios for artists. They purchased 222 Central Park South, then a millionaire’s mansion, in 1907, and replaced the mansion with the Gainsborough Studios. The 34 apartments at the front of the building have double-height living rooms. At the moment there’s one 2BR in the building for sale.
222 Central Park South, New York, NY 10019
Studio Building
The 1907 Studio Building, designed by Herbert Harde and R. Thomas Short, also had double-height studios intended for artists. But regular folk (i.e., lawyers and doctors) also lived there from the beginning. The building received some rave archicritical reviews: a “Brobdingnagian cathedral,” one magazine called it; the terra cotta decoration “appears to have been squeezed out of a pastry tube,” said an architectural historian. The building has one incredible penthouse on the market now.
44 West 77th Street, New York, NY 10024
Hotel Des Artistes
George Mort Pollard designed this building, which was built in 1917. As at other artists’ residents, a number of the apartments include double-height spaces, but not only visual artists lived at the Hotel Des Artistes. Noel Coward and Fannie Hurst, for example, were among the writers in residence. There is one $2 million 1BR on the market in the building now.
1 W 67th St, New York, NY 10023
Studio Building
This building—which shares the name the Studio Building with one of the Upper West Siders on this list—was architect Charles Platt’s first major city design. (He had previously been known as a country house architect.) Painter Gerald Murphy (a friend of F. Scott Fitzgerald) and baritone Lawrence Tibbett were among the early residents. There’s one two-bedroom on the market now in the landmarked building.
131 East 66th Street, New York, NY 10065
140 West 57th Street
Pollard & Steinam—who designed several other artist-oriented buildings on West 67th Street—were the architects of this structure, which was built in 1907-1908. The front of the building contained seven double-height apartments, and as the Landmarks Preservation Commission designation report for the building puts it, “the tall, projecting bay windows set in geometrically-ornamented cast iron frames bring in the north light so prized by artists.” 130 West 57th Street was designed by the same architects and was almost identical. (It was also the site of a disorderly conduct complaint over the “absolute riot” of ragtime.)
140 West 57th Street, New York, NY 10019
80 West 40th Street
Painter (and naturalist) Abraham Archibald Anderson tried living in Connecticut so that he would have the space and light in which to work, but he wanted to be in the city—so he decided to buy four lots at 40th Street and Sixth Avenue and build a studio building there. Anderson and his wife occupied the top floor once the building was finished. Other artists took space, and eventually, Liz Claiborne had her first studio there. In the 1980s, the building received a restoration.
80 West 40th Street, New York, NY 10018
The Rembrandt
Carnegie Hall Tower now stands where the Rembrandt Studio building went up in 1881. Christopher Gray speculated in one Streetscapes column that the Rembrandt—along with the Sherwood Studio building at 57th Street and Sixth Avenue, since demolished—may have been one of the buildings that persuaded Andrew Carnegie that a concert hall would be the right fit for the neighborhood. (Photo via Museum of the City of New York.)
152 W 57th St, New York, NY 10019
Carnegie Hall Studios
Carnegie Hall kicked out its last artists several years ago in order to convert their live/work spaces above the famed concert hall into additional office and classroom space. One of the last residents, photographer/filmmaker Josef Astor, made the documentary Lost Bohemia about the end of the building’s artist housing era.
881 7th Ave, New York, NY 10019
(212) 247-7800
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